Breaking Down Barriers

In yesterday’s article, I discussed the deal from Dragons’ Den that went to Jason Bellissimo with his novel product, the Handi-Tray. Further investigation, though revealed that the deal did not make it through due diligence, despite the fact that the product was a good one, and the market known. However, Jason was having difficulty in getting restaurants to adopt the tray, and so Brett Wilson walked away from the deal, for the time being.

What fascinated me about all this is the fact that I’ve recently been reading the book Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (click here for my brief review of the book), in which they address this exact problem in marketing. To break their book down into its most basic pieces, the authors describe two fundamental methods of marketing a new product or service.

In the one method, which they title Red Ocean Strategy, the creator of the product or service is looking to compete in a predefined market for which there are already competing products. As an example, a business might create a new travel mug, and try to sell it in coffee shops and housewares stores. They will compete against all other travel mugs, comparing size, durability, effectiveness, and price. At the end of the day, though, there are a finite number of buyers for the product, and many of them are already committed to other brands. As such, this is a difficult type of market to break into.

The other method is that described by the title, Blue Ocean Strategy. In this, the product defines a new market, which does not have any competition because the product or service is really that new and unique. One example from the book is that of Cirque du Soleil, which combined the circus with stage theater to create a completely new genre of entertainment. Since it is a new market, the competition is not [yet] relevant, and other forms of marketing the product become possible. In my opinion, the Handi-Tray really has the potential to make use of such a strategy.

The Handi-Tray combines a quality serving tray with an advertising medium, which is fairly unique. While either portion on its own would be difficult to market – there are other (possibly inferior) trays available, and there are many ways to create advertising space in a restaurant. However, the two combined is a unique product. This would, perhaps, create a candidate for a Blue Ocean Strategy, with a caveat – they are still competing against existing trays.

Perhaps on of the approaches they may want to take is to look at event-based advertising to get the trays into restaurants. If, for example, a company is booking an entire restaurant for an event, they may be interested in having the trays featuring their company logo be used during their luncheon. At the end of the event, the trays might be left at the restaurant, or they may be taken away with the patrons. However, the wait staff would have been given a free taste of the new tray, the management would have seen some of the possible applications, and look into buying them.

If you’re looking to start a new product or service, it would be worth looking into new and alternative ways of marketing your product. If you can find a way to do so in a novel way, and the product has merit on its own, you may be well on the way to creating a successful product.